71% of Children Killed by One Parent are Killed by Their Mothers; 60% of Victims are Boys
- From: "MCP" <gf010w5035@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2009 09:24:15 +0100
In 1994, Susan Smith's murder of her sons Michael and Alex made national
headlines for months. A couple of factors explain why the Susan Smith case
received such high-profile coverage. One factor was Smith's overt racism.
Smith initially made up a story about having been carjacked by an
African-American man in order to explain the disappearance of her sons. The
media, all too ready to believe her horror story, had made it front page
news all over the country. Having covered the story of the "carjacking" and
the boys' disappearance for 9 days, the media couldn't easily drop the story
when it was discovered that Smith had actually strapped her three-year old
and one-year old sons into their carseats and then driven her car into a
lake to drown them. Furthermore, when it came out that Smith's reason for
killing the boys was because she dreamed of marrying a wealthy man who had
told her he had no interest in "ready-made" family, the resulting revulsion
by the general public helped sell newspapers and increase media ratings.
But when a mother murders her children, it's rare for the news media to
react with such high-profile coverage. It's far more common for the press to
do high-profile news stories on murdering fathers like Manuel Gehring, who
in 2003 killed his children and buried them off an interstate in Ohio, or
Mark Castillo, who in 2008 drowned his children in a Baltimore hotel room
bathtub before attempting to take his own life.
TV shows and movies likewise hardly ever tell stories of abusive mothers or
mothers who kill their children, leaving the viewing public with the
misimpression that fathers are a far greater danger to their children than
mothers. TV shows and movies are also far more likely to portray girls as
victims of maltreatment than boys.
However data from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) tells a
completely opposite story regarding who abuses children. The DHHS publishes
an annual report called "Child Maltreatment", and each year's report
contains a table detailing the parental status of the perpetrator(s).
Shown below is an analysis of data drawn from the "Child abuse and neglect"
and the "Child fatality" tables from each of the DHHS' "Child Maltreatment"
reports between 2001 and 2006.
The DHHS calculates the percentages of perpetrators in various categories
such as Mother, Father, Foster Parent, Daycare Staff, Friend or Neighbor,
etc. The percentages are often used to argue whether, on average, it is
fathers or mothers that pose a greater risk of harm to their children. But
when trying to determine which parent, on average poses the greater danger,
categories like Foster Parent, Daycare Staff, Friend or Neighbor, etc. are
entirely irrelevant. The calculations below factor out those categories to
produce a more accurate picture. The resulting calculations show the
percentage of child abuse and deaths caused by one parent acting either
alone or in concert with someone other than the child's other parent.
The DHHS data shows that of children abused by one parent between 2001 and
2006, 70.6% were abused by their mothers, whereas only 29.4% were abused by
And of children who died at the hands of one parent between 2001 and 2006,
70.8% were killed by their mothers, whereas only 29.2% were killed by their
Furthermore, contrary to media portrayals that leave the viewer with the
impression that only girls are ever harmed, boys constituted fully 60% of
child fatalities. (Table 4-3, p. 71, Child Maltreatment 2006,
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm06/cm06.pdf, reports that 675 boys
died in 2006 as compared to 454 girls).
The pervasive media bias cannot help but influence judges. Thus the
newspapers, TV shows, and movies that promote this bias must bear a
significant part of the responsibility for child abuse and deaths of
children at the hands of violent mothers. ---
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